This is part two in a three-part series addressing how people can save for college or reduce or eliminate student loan debt. In our first post, we shared some tips that are “better than faking your death” to pay off student loan debt. In this sampler tray (or beer flight) of savings ideas, we’ll share how adults who are looking to return to college can find financial assistance or reduce the cost of post-secondary education.
We covered the reasons why in more detail in our first post, but we’re chatting about college savings and student loan debt for two reasons:
- First, plain and simple. The quicker you can wipe out debt, the quicker you can start saving properly for other life events.
- Second, we recently launched a personal financial advice service. Clients can access it via mobile or desktop using the chat feature on the bottom-right of the screen. Since we’ve launched, the topic of student loan debt has been a top question posed by our clients.
A Happy Hour of Options for Adults Wanting to Return to College
So maybe you’ve always eyed going back for that graduate degree. Perhaps you launched yourself into the workforce early and never quite finished your undergrad. Or you’re looking to make a career change. Whatever your reason for returning to the BIG U, many options exist for scholarships, financial assistance and strategies to reduce your overall cost.
Does Your Current Job Offer Employer Tuition Assistance?
By now, you understand that a job is about far more than salary and that bowl of jolly ranchers in your neighbor’s cube. A great job perk is tuition assistance. Many employers offer the benefit, and it will reduce the amount you could need to borrow. To qualify, your employer may require that the course of study is related to your current role, you attain a minimum GPA or higher and you commit to staying with the company for a designated amount of time upon completing your schooling.
Like to Hustle?
Can’t work full time with a return to college, but still want a side hustle?
Student Loan Hero offers a page of recommended gigs so you can easily make some extra money to help pay the bills while in school. You can work flexible hours with most of the jobs listed to accommodate your class load.
Considering Financial Assistance or Scholarships?
First, if you haven’t looked into tuition waiver programs, you should. Student looking to return to college can often benefit from tuition waiver programs at schools and universities. A tuition waiver is a form of financial aid in which the school forgoes (waives) all or part of tuition charges. From employment status to GPA to Senior Citizen benefits, a number of options exist.
Going to grad school? It doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for financial assistance or scholarships. It’s worth checking out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a recent Student Loan Hero post about Scholarship Search Tools.
And if that undergraduate degree is the goal, definitely check out the previously mentioned resources, but wait … there’s more. You also could be more likely to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant or a larger loan amount. That’s because most returning adult students will meet FAFSA’s independent student criteria.
In addition, if you’re a single parent, many college and universities have financial assistance programs specifically tailored to single parents. Those programs often include additional services, such as daycare and housing, to boot.
Look Into Tax Credits
Many Americans can take advantage of the Lifetime Learning tax credit. Essentially, this is a tax credit for anyone who goes to college. It provides a maximum of $2,000 and restrictions, like income, apply.
If you are returning or beginning undergrad programs, research whether you’re eligible for the American Opportunity Credit. Like the Lifetime Learning tax credit, the American Opportunity provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 for qualified education expenses. The catch is that this credit is only good for the first four years of higher education.
Perhaps the Most Fun Option: Studying Abroad
Limited responsibilities allowing you some travel flexibility? Or regret your chance at studying abroad the first time around? More U.S. graduate students are studying abroad than ever.
According the Wall Street Journal, enrollment of U.S. students abroad is up 12% since 2011. 1. And for a surprising reason: cost.
Foreign graduate programs can be heavily subsidized by the country’s government and countries like Ireland are touting free degrees. Guinness anyone?
When All Else Fails …
Other options exist, such as home equity loans and private education loans. But I would look at these only as a last resort. For starters, you’ll likely find the lowest interest rates from the previously mentioned federal loan programs. And our goal here is to help get you out of student loan debt, not back in it.
Does the Goal Justify the Cost?
One final tip. Before you sign on the dotted line for that return to college — and take on any student loan debt — confirm your belief that the additional education will pay off in terms of income, career growth or personal enrichment.
Financing opportunities for adults looking to return to college may not be as ballyhooed as those for traditional college students. That said, there are plenty of options. Some of those options may even make you wonder why you waited to go back.
We’re Here for You …
If you’re ever online (mobile or desktop) and you have a financial question, feel free to reach out to me or our team of advisors. Just use the chat feature at the bottom-right of your screen. A fair warning … our gif game is strong.
- For U.S. Grad Students, Overseas Schools Beckon Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-u-s-grad-students-overseas-schools-beckon-1490278126
The information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice. Blooom does not provide tax advice. Consult a tax expert for tax-specific questions.